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Friday 29 December 2017

Cornelis Cort’s engraving, “Hercules Defeating the Hydra of Lerna”, 1563

Cornelis Cort (1533–1578)

“Hercules Defeating the Hydra of Lerna”, 1563, from the series of ten plates (see BM nos. F,1.277–286), “The Labours of Hercules” after lost paintings by Frans Floris (aka Frans Floris van Vriendt) (1519/1520–1570), published by Julius Goltzius (fl.1555–1601) (as inscribed on the plate), c1595, in Antwerp.

Engraving on fine laid paper trimmed with narrow margins on the sides and bottom and along the plate mark at top.
Size: (sheet trimmed unevenly) 22.3 x 29 cm; (plate) 22.2 x 28.4 cm; (image borderline) 21.5 x 28.4 cm
Inscribed on the plate within the image borderline at lower edge: (centre-left) “5”; (centre) “Cor. Cort. fec.”; (centre-right) “franciscus floris / inventor / Goltzius. excu.”
State iv (of iv?) with the addition of the artist’s name and change of publisher from Hieronymus Cock to Julius Goltzius.

New Hollstein Dutch 176-4 (4) (Manfred Sellink [comp.] Huigen Leeflang [ed.] 2000, “The New Hollstein: Dutch and Flemish etchings, engravings and woodcuts 1450–1700” , Part 3, p. 31, cat. no. 176); Bierens de Haan 1948 176 (JCJ Bierens de Haan 1948, “L'oeuvre gravé de Cornelis Cort, graveur hollandais 1533–1578”, The Hague); Van de Velde 1975 50 (Carl Van de Velde 1975, “Frans Floris [1519/20–1570], Leven en Werken”, 2 vols, Brussels); New Hollstein (Dutch & Flemish) 71.III (Frans Floris); Riggs 1977 78 (Timothy Riggs 1977, “Hieronymus Cock, Printmaker and Publisher”, New York, Garland Press).

Condition: crisp impression trimmed on the platemark at the top edge and with narrow margins on the sides and bottom. The sheet is in excellent condition for its age (i.e. there are no tears, holes, abrasions, stains or foxing but there are very minor signs of handling visible verso).

I am selling this visually stunning engraving from the Renaissance era for the total cost of AU$276 (currently US$215.44/EUR179.96/GBP159.66 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.

If you are interested in purchasing this fabulous print seldom seen on the art market, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold

This is such a bizarre image. For those unfamiliar with the twelve “The Labours of Hercules”, this scene shows Hercules in his second “labour”/trial in the act of bashing heads from the mythological creature, the Hydra of Lerna, like a star baseball player. At this precise moment in the action, Hercules has just lopped off one of the Hydra’s nine heads—the exact number varies with who is telling the story (but I like things with nine heads). Nothing is easy for Hercules. I understand that when he knocks off a head with his club another two heads appear in its place. If that wasn’t a problem in itself, the breath of this critter is also poisonous and its blood is so awfully smelly that the stench is hazardous to poor Hercules health. Fortunately, Hercules is aided by his nephew, Iolaus, who cauterized the neck of the monster when a head is removed and thus, in collaboration, they subdue it. To add further excitement to Hercules’ battle with the Hydra, Juno—a goddess who harbours a strong dislike for Hercules and his manly ways—decides to send a squadron of crabs to bite his toes. (ooch!)

For those unfamiliar Frans Floris who designed this composition, according to the British Museum’s bibliographical details about this artist, he is famous “for his heroic feats of drinking.” Interesting, Floris was able to condense the “Twelve Labours of Hercules” to just ten.

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